I got a first in the post today. A letter from a man I’ve never met. Threatening to sue me. In fourteen days. If I don’t pay a fee that is due. And informing me that I will have to pay all the legal fees incurred. Which in this country brings figures to mind approaching hundreds of thousands of euros.
Now this letter is a mistake. I’ve been paying this fee in instalments as agreed. But this letter is impersonal and common. A blanket attack from a creditor. To a collection of debtors. And I just happened to be caught up in the blanket. No one is going to sue me and if they did it would be thrown out of court and they’d have to pay my fees.
So I’m not afraid today. Not concerned about being sued. I have the cash to pay the fee. I’m not flush. Far from it. But I have the few bob required. And I’ll continue to pay in instalments, secure in the knowledge that the average judge-type punter does not uphold court cases against debtors who are paying their bills.
But what about the people out there who can’t afford to pay? Those who don’t have enough money to pay all the bills in one month. Those in fear.
I live in Ireland. The land where the Celtic Tiger roared through a larynx of corruption. The bellows became a whimper and the land of the affluent changed radically. Where once graduates formed lines outside designer stores they now form lines outside fast food restaurants, begging for any positions vacant.
I’ve been relatively sheltered from this. My career advanced during this time. But no more than a persons career normally would following a successful completion of college and hard work over the first years of employment. I have a permanent job and my own home. The area in which I’m employed is relatively sheltered from the recession. We didn’t command insane salaries in the times of the hot air balloon nor did we loose immensely as the air gushed out. The government has taken some of my money away. I’ve had my taxes raised and a pension levy imposed upon me. There are luxuries in my life but I have cut almost all of them out. I’m not floating in money but I’m ok.
I regularly pass the welfare lines for the unemployed in the city. I am now wary of asking a person I meet about their work, for often their work is gone. I don’t patronise these people. I feel genuine empathy for them and I am delighted that I have a job today. I work hard, to drive my career on and make sure I have as good a chance as possible of always having a job. But I am constantly aware of the fact that I am fortunate.
Today I arrived home from work and my world had been invaded by a very unsettling letter. This letter stated that legal action would be started within fourteen days if a particular fee wasn’t forthcoming. This led me to consider the plight of people who are receiving such letters and have no means of paying the bill.
These are not lazy people. They are not people who did their job badly. These are people who made lots of money for this country. People who made extraordinary profits for the companies. People who had been told that if you work hard you’ll be rewarded. In many cases these are people who simply want to be able to pay their mortgage and give their kids a decent upbringing at the same time. People who feel that because they worked hard in college and then in their job that their careers were safe. We were told that certain purchases could end up as negative equity in the short to medium term, which we accepted when investing for the long-term. I read articles by economists who spoke positively and negatively about the economy. But I don’t remember being told that fifteen to twenty percent of my salary would disappear overnight. I don’t remember being told we would be taxed through a recession. That doesn’t work we were told. No country would be so stupid. Yet, for now, we live in one that is. I read and listened. And so did the people on the unemployment register today. The people who received those threatening letters today. The people who are just trying to send their kids to school. Yesterday they were in my world but now they’re in my thoughts.